September 1st, 2015 by Lauren Bolline
Institutions play an important role in the revitalization of urban downtowns. The city of New Brunswick has anchored its downtown redevelopment around Rutgers University, Johnson and Johnson and two major hospitals. In Trenton, it is Dr. George Pruitt and Thomas Edison State College that are playing a leading role in revitalization.
Dr. Pruitt has been president of Thomas Edison State College since 1982 and has pioneered higher-education investment in Trenton. Deeply committed to New Jersey’s capital city, he has led the college’s effort to restore and construct several historic and new buildings in the city’s downtown, preserving the essence of its stately past and stimulating economic development. These buildings include the Kelsey Building, one of the architectural landmarks of Trenton; the townhouses adjacent to New Jersey’s State House complex; the Center for Learning and Technology; and Kuser Mansion, all on West State Street, as well as the Academic Center and Canal Bank buildings on West Hanover Street.
One of Dr. Pruitt’s core convictions is that as a public institution of higher education, Thomas Edison State College has a responsibility to apply its research, expertise and other resources to strengthening leadership in the public and non-profit sectors and enhancing the capacity of those leaders to address the most critical public-policy challenges. To help the institution meet that responsibility, he established The John S. Watson Institute for Public Policy at the college, working closely with leaders from foundations and the public sector, who would become the institute’s long-term funders, partners and clients.
Dr. Pruitt has long been active in the formulation of national and state higher-education and economic development policy. In a study of presidential leadership funded by the Exxon Education Foundation, Dr. Pruitt was identified as one of the most effective college presidents in the United States. The City of Trenton, and indeed the State of New Jersey, have been strengthened, and will continue to be strengthened for generations, in no small part because of George Pruitt’s commitment and dedication. New Jersey Future will be honoring Dr. Pruitt on Thursday, October 29, 5:30 to 8:00 PM at the Trenton City Museum at Ellarslie. Please visit the event page to purchase tickets or show your support.
August 19th, 2015 by New Jersey Future staff
The following is reprinted with permission from The New Jersey Planner, the official publication of the New Jersey Planning Officials.
Mr.Gilbert began his 13-year tenure as chairman of the Englewood Planning Board in 1970, six years before the effective date of the state’s Municipal Land Use Law. In 1981, he assumed a two-year term as president of the New Jersey Federation of Planning Officials. (The organization dropped “Federation of” in a 1994 name change.) Read the rest of this entry »
August 14th, 2015 by New Jersey Future staff
The first of two updates on the progress being made toward addressing the problem of sewage overflows in New Jersey cities. It was written by New Jersey Future graduate intern Sarah Watson.
The Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission has signaled that it intends to go above and beyond the minimum requirements set in its new state combined sewer overflow (CSO) permit.
PVSC, three weeks after the CSO permit went into effect, issued a request for proposals for a suite of services that, together, will result in a comprehensive Long Term Control Plan that shows significant forward thinking. The commission stated in its RFP that it “envisions (using) green infrastructure as a key element” of its long term plan, which is required to be complete in five years.
Additionally, the authority wants the experts who help design the plan to incorporate a suite of best practices compiled by the Urban Water Solutions Initiative, a collaborative effort supported by New Jersey Future. Those practices include robust public engagement, water conservation, flooding and climate resiliency measures, regional approaches to solutions and innovative financing.
The Initiative promotes these approaches because they can help lower costs, while allowing cities to incorporate multiple benefits that enhance quality of life and support economic growth into what will be a massive public works investment.
A road map for infrastructure upgrades
On July 1, new state permits went into effect for the 25 municipalities, sewage treatment plants, and sewage authorities that manage systems with CSOs. In addition to the steps these entities already have taken to control overflows, they now must develop comprehensive Long-Term Control Plans. These plans will act as road maps for how communities and utilities will upgrade infrastructure in the coming years and decades.
If communities take on the planning effort individually, they will have three years to develop a complicated engineering model of their system, determine what options may work for specific areas, and formulate their plan. But communities that work together or with sewage authorities will have up to five years to complete this process.
PVSC is the largest authority with a permit, servicing eight CSO municipalities and collecting sewage from nearly 50 communities.
Allowing local flexibility in finding CSO solutions
Overflows occur when combined sewer systems – which carry both sewage and stormwater and were considered the highest technology when they were built in the late 1800s and early 1900s – are overwhelmed by the amount of rainwater or snowmelt flowing into the system. The outfalls act as a release to the system, allowing the excess sewage and stormwater mix to flow out and into waterways. Combined systems also can cause street flooding during heavy rainstorms and even can cause sewage to back up in basements.
While the sewer systems were built with these releases in mind, the permitted overflows are a major source of water pollution. The sewage affects the aquatic environment, forces beach and waterway closures, and can affect the health of anyone who comes into contact with the contaminated water.
While many cities and states around the country have been forced by the federal Environmental Protection Agency to stem the flow from their combined sewers, New Jersey and its cities have never been under such order. Rather than wait for enforcement action from the federal government, the state is using permits to spur a long-term planning process, which will result in CSO communities reducing or eliminating overflows.
New Jersey CSO communities have already taken substantial steps toward reducing or ending overflows. Nearly 65 overflows already have been permanently closed off, according to the Dept. of Environmental Protection. Other communities have spent millions of dollars to install grates and shields on overflow pipes and sewer openings to keep trash out of the system.
This “solids and floatables” control is an example of system optimization – allowing the existing system to work better because trash and other foreign objects no longer take up space that could be filled with water. This also has reduced the amount of trash getting dumped into waterways via CSO outfalls, thus reducing the amount of trash that washes up along shorelines.
Why this matters for cities
Developing and implementing a Long Term Control Plan is a huge job for communities, and meeting the deadlines is a source of stress for local officials.
In Perth Amboy, which has three outfalls, the city is trying to figure out how to upgrade its aging water system as well as manage a combined sewage system, said Greg Fehrenbach, the city’s former business administrator and now a consultant to the city.
While Perth Amboy agrees with the goal of the new permits, meeting the new requirements and paying for the combined sewer overflow fixes, Fehrenbach said, will be a substantial challenge.
“The costs of operations and capital improvements are quite high for a rather poor customer base,” Fehrenbach said. “Rates for water and sewer are among the highest in the region. This added challenge exacerbates an already difficult problem.”
Perth Amboy’s contract engineer will be able to incorporate much of the work needed into its current contract, but the city will be collaborating with the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission to reduce planning costs further, Fehrenbach said.
New Jersey may be late to the table in requiring communities to develop and implement complex and expensive plans for reducing and eliminating overflows. However, the state stands out as the first to allow its CSO communities the option to do things on their own terms without the federal government dictating solutions, according to Dan Van Abs, an associate research professor at Rutgers University. This means New Jersey communities can use this as an opportunity to transform neighborhoods by using CSO solutions that have multiple benefits.
But while that flexibility is on the table right now, communities that don’t meet the deadlines in their permits could end up with the federal government making the decisions.
August 12th, 2015 by Elaine Clisham
We came across two items recently that reminded us again that there are some parts of New Jersey that, even though they may have higher-than-average concentrations of older residents, are not particularly accommodating to them from a land-use perspective.
The first item was an article in the national online news publication Vox, and highlights the degree to which most transportation systems fail people who can’t drive. Lack of access to public transit forces people who shouldn’t be driving to do it anyway, even when it’s not safe, or to become increasingly isolated in their homes — a less-than-ideal public health outcome. The article touched on a couple of potential solutions, including the prospect of self-driving cars, but acknowledged that they won’t be able to address the full scale of the problem.
The second item is the recently-launched Livability Index, a product of AARP’s public-policy institute. To use the tool, simply type in the name or zip code of a location, and it calculates an initial index. That number can then be adjusted by indicating the relative importance of each of the factors that went into the initial calculation. So, for example, Manchester Township in Ocean County, which has a very high concentration of older residents but is predominantly single-use and car-dependent residential in character, gets an initial index of 45 out of a possible 100. By contrast, Princeton, which is New Jersey’s first World Health Organization-recognized aging-friendly community and boasts a mixed-use walkable downtown with cultural amenities, comes in with an initial score of 62, and would likely be even higher if the housing stock were more affordable.
The results in New Jersey parallel the findings in a report New Jersey Future released at the beginning of 2014, highlighting the serious mismatch between which towns in the state have higher numbers of older residents and which towns have the most accommodating land-use patterns for those residents.
There are some things any town can do to help solve the problem of stranded older residents. Perhaps the most significant one is to diversify the available housing choices, especially in areas close to amenities such as transit, food, social resources such as community centers and houses of worship, and medical care. Even if good public transit options are not available, having amenities within walking distance of appropriate housing — smaller, with less to maintain — can go a long way toward reducing isolation and increasing physical and psychological health among older residents.
Unfortunately, many municipalities in New Jersey are resistant to the idea of allowing higher-density housing in a mixed-use environment, even though that is where market demand is heading. Municipalities ignore this demand at their peril: As housing options open up elsewhere, older residents will vote with their feet.
August 4th, 2015 by Megan Callus
On July 31, New Jersey Future submitted its official comments on the Citizen Outreach Plan portion of Rebuild By Design’s Hudson River project. The proposed plan, developed by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, lays out a process for engaging the public in the design and construction of a massive $230-million flood mitigation project in Hoboken, Weehawken and Jersey City .
New Jersey Future reviewed the plan carefully to see if it would offer the public an opportunity to ensure that the project is truly resilient and equitable. For example: Will the project protect people and property from future floods, even in light of projected sea-level rise? Will the project treat equally those residents who have the most difficulty responding to disasters due to their lack of access to critical resources, limited English proficiency, age, and mental or physical disabilities? And will it complement and advance other community goals for economic development, quality of life and a healthy environment? Read the rest of this entry »
July 30th, 2015 by Elaine Clisham
The Fall 2014 Duke Farms studio class at the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University had an interesting assignment: Figure out where the opportunities are for Somerset County to attract more Millennial residents. The report, Somerset County Development Opportunities: A Millennial Perspective (pdf), prepared for the Somerset County Business Partnership in collaboration with the Somerset County Freeholders and Planning Board, has now been published. Read the rest of this entry »
New Jersey Future Board Chairman Named to Monmouth University’s First Endowed Chair in Real Estate Policy
July 27th, 2015 by Elaine Clisham
Peter Reinhart, the current director of the Kislak Real Estate Institute at Monmouth University and chairman of New Jersey Future’s board of trustees, has been named to Monmouth University’s first endowed chair in real estate policy. The Arthur and Dorothy Greenbaum and Robert Ferguson/New Jersey Realtors Endowed Chair in Real Estate Policy, in the university’s Leon Hess Business School, was named in honor of the late Robert Ferguson, who served as executive vice president of New Jersey Realtors for nearly 40 years, and Arthur Greenbaum, senior partner at Greenbaum, Rowe, Smith & Davis, LLC, who received the first Monmouth University Kislak Real Estate Institute Leadership Excellence Award in 1994. Read the rest of this entry »
July 10th, 2015 by Elaine Clisham
UPDATE: On July 15, the State Planning Commission voted unanimously to extend “center” designations for another three years.
Next week the State Planning Commission is scheduled to vote to extend “center” designations for another three years, a move New Jersey Future opposed for coastal and other vulnerable centers.
Extending the designation signals state support for future development at higher intensities than without the designation, and gives towns with such designations access to greater funding from state departments such as the Economic Development Authority and its job creation and development incentives. Read the rest of this entry »
July 10th, 2015 by Elaine Clisham
On July 8 the New Jersey Department of Transportation announced the designation of two new Transit Villages, its 29th and 30th. The two new designees are Park Ridge in Bergen County and Irvington in Essex County.
Park Ridge’s designation comes after more than seven years of downtown-focused planning, initiated in 2008 by a community-wide visioning process and furthered by local ordinances that have encouraged downtown redevelopment. Park Ridge has also been building out its bicycle and pedestrian network in an effort to connect nearby neighborhoods to downtown amenities. Read the rest of this entry »
July 8th, 2015 by Elaine Clisham
Recommendations directly parallel New Jersey Future work
Can our coastal areas enjoy both prosperity and resilience? This was the question posed at the annual Peter Lord Seminar on the Environment, presented June 25 in Providence, R.I., by the Metcalf Institute for Marine and Environmental Reporting at the University of Rhode Island’s Graduate School of Oceanography. The answer is yes, but it will require better information and longer-term planning.
Preserving the economic viability of our coastal areas is critical. In terms of employment, according to NOAA’s Coastal County Snapshots, the ocean economy employs more people nationally than do crop production, telecommunications, and building construction combined. In New Jersey, the ocean economy provided 105,200 jobs in 2012, up from 77,300 jobs in 2005. It represents $4 billion in wages paid, and more than $7.4 billion in good and services produced. Tourism provides the overwhelming majority (slightly less than 80 percent) of coastal jobs, with marine transportation, both shipping and passenger transportation, showing strong growth. Any coastal management initiative needs to preserve these economic benefits. Read the rest of this entry »